The Human Stain (2003) starring Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Wentworth Miller, Jacinda Barrett directed by Robert Benton Movie Review

The Human Stain (2003)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk in The Human Stain (2003)

Not a Little White Lie

If you've not read anything about "The Human Stain" or read Philip Roth's novel from which it is adapted I urge you to stop reading, buy or rent "The Human Stain" and watch it. I'm not saying that because this is the greatest movie you will ever watch but because this is a movie of two halves which switches when a secret is revealed and if you are aware of what that secret is before watching it will spoil the impact and ramifications of it. If you must read on well "The Human Stain" is as you would expect from a cast which features Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise well acted. It is also fascinating or at least the second half is because unfortunately whilst the first half of the movie is important it is sadly weak in comparison to the second.

Getting one of my few bug bears about "The Human Stain" out of the way with early on is that we get a narration from Sinise's character Nathan Zuckerman which basically leads us through the movie, introduces the characters, explains various things and it is a little too forced. It is this narration which leads us into the movie as we witness a car accident on an icy road before being taken back to 1998 and Athena College where we meet Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins - Mission: Impossible II). And here we get the initial catalyst because having referred to two students who have never shown up for class as "spooks", as in ghosts, he is accused of racism because they are African American. It leads to Coleman quitting, threatening to sue, his wife dying and 6 months later Coleman actually meeting Nathan when he approaches him to write his story.

Wentworth Miller as Young Coleman Silk in The Human Stain (2003)

What follows on from this meeting as Coleman and Nathan become friends is a mixed of the then and now because we get taken back to 1944 when Coleman (Wentworth Miller) was a student and he met and fell for the attractive Steena (Jacinda Barrett). Interweaved with this is the now with Coleman falling for the much younger Faunia (Nicole Kidman - Practical Magic) and as we learn has issues of her own thanks to a psychotic former husband in the form of Lester (Ed Harris). Now in fairness whilst you have the semi-erotic scenes of Coleman and Faunia in bed this first half seems to be going nowhere other than the fact that people talk behind Coleman's back because of this relationship with a younger woman. You are sort of lulled into this sense of boredom because what we are watching seems ordinary and going nowhere.

But then we get the revelation, the big reveal of a big secret which leads to a chain of secrets being uncovered and many ramifications and it turns what we have watched on its head. I won't say what the secret is but let's just say if you don't know you will be surprised and that surprise, even shock will lead to the brain ticking over as one reveal leads to another. Some of this seems a bit too manufactured and maybe in Roth's novel the transition from one revelation to another is smoother but it still delivers big impact and that is great.

As for the acting well what do you expect from Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise other than good and that is what you get from each. There maybe some issues over the way characters react, a scene where Coleman dances with Nathan being one of the strangest but they create characters. What is a slight problem is believing Wentworth Miller as the young Coleman because whilst he does a solid job the physical difference, 5 inches in height being one of them is an issue and does slightly spoil what is a well acted movie.

What this all boils down to is that "The Human Stain" is one of those movies which seems to be going nowhere exciting and almost lulling you into a false sense of knowing what is going to happen and then shocking you with a secret. It is by no means perfect, but good performances and a brilliant second half makes it well worth a watch especially as one secret reveals something else and the ramifications of which are far reaching.

Tags: Age Gap Romances